Happy Galentine’s Day, everyone! This wonderful fictional holiday was created by my personal hero Leslie Knope as a day to honor all of the beautiful and talented women who make our lives special. Valentine’s Day may be traditionally about romance, but Galentine’s Day is all about female friendships.
The idea behind Galentine’s Day—ladies celebrating ladies—is still such a rare thing in the media. I was looking back through my Top 3 Female Friendships on TV that I compiled last year, and I was saddened to see that two of those three are no longer really a part of their respective shows due to cast departures. And there aren’t very many friendships I would add to that list, either, despite the huge increase in the number of shows I watch nowadays.
For most of the mainstream media, it’s still common practice to feature one woman who’s friends with a group of men (see The Mindy Project or the Harry Potter series) or a female friendship that exists solely for exposition purposes in terms of the show’s romantic relationships (see Donna and Rachel on Suits or Lanie and Beckett on Castle). There aren’t too many examples of women forming deep, lasting relationships with other women based on factors other than needing a sounding board for their romantic problems. And that needs to change.
Women are often seen as superficial, backstabbing, petty, and prone to jealousy towards members of their own gender. If you were to make assumptions based solely on the media (a horrible way to form opinions, if I’m being honest), female friendships are mostly a series of interactions between “frenemies” instead of the supportive, inclusive, and warm relationships they usually are in the real world. Female friendships are all-too-often portrayed as being far less meaningful than the ultimate relationship goal: romance. Having friends is great, but what would a woman talk about with her friends if there were no romantic prospects to discuss?
The answer: Quite a lot, actually. You see, women can and do actually have conversations about things other than their romantic relationships (or lack thereof). We can form meaningful relationships with people of our own gender that often last longer and fulfill us on more levels than romantic relationships at any given point in our lives. As I said in my review of Parks and Recreation’s ode to friendship, “Ann and Chris,” our first soul mates are often our best friends. Women (especially young women) don’t have to be catty, petty, and suspicious of other women just because the media says that’s how we often are. Instead, let’s change the narrative and celebrate the fact that women are often incredibly generous, affectionate, and supportive towards other women. We don’t have to be each other’s biggest rivals and enemies; we can be each other’s biggest cheerleaders and most trusted confidants.
Now that Ann and Leslie have gone to “TV BFF Heaven” (along with the likes of Rory and Lane, Mary and Rhoda, Lucy and Ethel, Sydney and Francie, and the women of Sex and the City), I just want to offer some advice for future TV writers who want to create realistic female friendships…
Write about women who meet as kids and have a real sense of shared history between them. Write about women who meet as teenagers and bond over having a crush on the same unattainable boy instead of competing for him. Write about women who meet as adults in an office and help each other rise to new positions in the workplace.
Write conversations where women talk for extended periods of time without bringing up a romantic prospect. Have them talk about their families, their goals, their insecurities, pop culture, the new shoes they bought, or—heaven forbid—sports. Write conversations where women talk about their problems with one another openly and honestly—we don’t all flip tables or pull hair when we’re mad, and we don’t all act nice to each other’s faces but secretly hate each other. Write conversations where a woman shares her insecurities about how she looks and her friend sincerely encourages her, instead of conversations where women pick apart each other’s physical flaws.
Create women who are emotionally guarded but are still friends with women who are more open and affectionate. Create women who are happy being single but can still be friends with women who like to be in relationships. Create women who are different from one another but still love each other anyway—unconditionally, without trying to change each other.
Show women laughing together, really laughing until they can’t breathe. Show women crying together over things besides breakups. When someone we love passes away, when we lose a job, or when we feel like we’re losing ourselves, our best female friend is often the one we go to first. Show women giving each other advice on careers, family problems, and, yes, even dating. (We do talk about men sometimes—just not all the time.) Show women acknowledging how much other women have shaped their lives.
No two women are alike, so no two female friendships are alike. Write women who feel like real women, so their friendships feel like real friendships. Don’t be afraid to write imperfect friendships; embrace them. No person is perfect, so no relationship can be. Strive for friendships between women that feel honest and genuine—because women are often at our most honest and genuine with our best friends.
I am so lucky to have so many female friends whom I cherish with all my heart. My life has been forever changed for the better because of the support, encouragement, and love that I’ve received from the women around me. Today is a day for all of us girls—nerdy or otherwise—to celebrate the women we love. It’s a day for all of us to be Leslie Knopes, acknowledging the beautiful, tropical fish in our lives. So take your favorite ladies out for some waffles (or drinks, coffee, a fancy dinner, or whatever they may choose), and show them how happy you are to be their friend.
It may not be a national holiday (yet), but I hope you all have a wonderful Galentine’s Day with all of the lady friends you love.